T.S. Eliot called `The Moonstone the first and greatest English detective novel. The novel is worthy of such praise.
The story begins with a brief prologue describing how the famous yellow diamond was captured during a military campaign in India by a British officer in 1799. The action moves quickly to 1848 England, where, according to the British officers will, the diamond has been given to one of the soldiers young relatives, Rachel Verinder. Yet only hours after the diamond arrives at the Verinder estate, it disappears. Was it stolen by a relative? A servant? And who are these three Indian men who keep hanging around the estate?
`The Moonstone is told from the point of view of several characters. The first portion of the tale is told by Gabriel Betteredge, house steward of the Verinder estate, who has been working for the family practically his entire life. Betteredges account holds the readers interest as he introduces the main players and the crime itself. The next account, by distant Verinder relative Miss Clack, is humorous and somewhat important. But after Miss Clacks account, things really take off at breakneck speed.
Readers who latch onto the T.S. Eliot quote expecting a modern detective tale will be sorely disappointed. You arent going to see anything resembling Jeffrey Deaver, James Patterson, Sue Grafton, or even Mary Higgins Clark. You also wont see Mickey Spillane, Dashiel Hammett, or Raymond Chandler. Nor will you see Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, or Martha Grimes. You wont even see Arthur Conan Doyle. But you WILL see the novel that influenced them all.
Youll also see something else. Something that modern mystery/detective writers have for the most part lost. Characters. Oh sure, modern writers have characters, but for the most part, the reader only learns enough about the character to forward the plot. In our time, plot is King. When `The Moonstone was published (1868), one of the novels attractions was its characters. Collins has painted each of these characters so well that the reader feels that they know not only how they look, but their mannerisms, their movements, how they think, and their view of the world they live in. That type of character development is seriously lacking today, not from all writers, but from far too many.
Put modern mystery/detective stories out of your head. Then read `The Moonstone as you would any other novel. Get lost in the atmosphere and the characters. Immerse yourself. Most of all, enjoy. Reading `The Moonstone is like eating at a fine restaurant after months of fast food. When its over, you just want to sit back in your favorite chair and say, Its nice to know that the finer things are still available. Yes they are. Treat yourself to this gourmet book.
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‘The horrid mystery hanging over us in this house gets into my head like liquor, and makes me wild.’
Centred around a glorious yellow diamond that carries with it a menacing history, The Moonstone tells the story of Rachel Verinder, who inherits the stone on her eighteenth birthday. That very evening, the diamond is stolen and there begins an epic enquiry into hunting down the thief. At the same time, three Indian men, Brahmin guardians of the diamond are attempting to reclaim the stone in order to return it to their sacred Hindu Idol.
Told from the perspective of 11different characters, Wilkie Collins’ tale of mystery and suspicion was considered the first modern English detective novel at its time of publication.Review:
“The first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe.” (T.S. Eliot, author of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)
“Probably the very finest detective story ever written.” (Dorothy L. Sayers)
“Probably the best detective tale in the world.” (G. K. Chesterton, author of The Victorian Age in Literature)
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Book Description HarperCollins Distribution Ser, 1971. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110001845098